Why wound healing gets harder as we age

Controlling underlying conditions and watching for early signs of trouble can go a long way toward prevention.


Image: © travenian/Getty Images

When you skinned your knee as a kid, the scrape healed on its own with little more than a bandage and mom's TLC. Now that you're older, wounds can take much longer to heal — sometimes many months. "The body's capacity to repair the skin diminishes as we get older. There aren't as many growth factors and stem cells in the skin. Chronic disease, especially blood vessel disease, and malnutrition can also slow the healing process," says Dr. Dennis Orgill, a surgeon and medical director of the Wound Care Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Stubborn wounds

Wounds that resist healing may result from radiation (for cancer treatment) or injuries due to falls. But the following tend to be the most common reasons for a wound to get out of hand.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »